State Rep. Jerry Govan will propose legislation that would dissolve the S.C. State University board July 1 and create a new board with half its members selected by alumni.
The Orangeburg Democrat's proposal comes amid criticism and questions about the board's firing last month of president Andrew Hugine.
The current board, led by gubernatorial appointee Maurice Washington, has attracted the wrath of many alumni for Hugine's abrupt dismissal. Govan, an alumnus, said there have been allegations Washington improperly micromanages university business. He said an audit of the institution and its board might be necessary to clear up such questions.
Rep. Gilda Cobb-Hunter, D-Orangeburg, agreed that an audit could clear up such questions and said she would support an audit. A request from five legislators can trigger such an audit by the Legislative Audit Council.
Washington said he and the board were merely exercising the oversight delegated to them by the General Assembly. He said he had not seen Govan's legislation.
"I can't imagine on what legitimate grounds Rep. Govan would file such a bill," Washington said. "But it is the authority of the General Assembly to elect trustees to public higher education boards. Whatever the results of this bill, we simply will abide by it. We won't have a choice. That's their authority, their right."
Currently, the 13-member board comprises one member appointed by the governor and 12 members elected by the General Assembly. Six of the 12 are elected from congressional districts, and the other six are chosen at large.
"We set policy, and we look to the administration to carry out the policies," Washington said. "We hold them accountable, and we make changes here and there as necessary. We have to be involved as a governing body."
Govan's bill would dissolve the current board July 1. It provides that members of the new board be elected before that date. Six of the new members would be elected by the General Assembly from congressional districts. The other six would be chosen in a manner decided by the university's national alumni association.
The Citadel has a similar system in which alumni select three board members. Govan said giving the alumni a stake in the institution's governance appears to have worked well for the state military college.
Govan already has filed legislation that would prevent a trustee of a state university from being hired as president, a bill he said is aimed to head off speculation that someone on the current board aspired to be president.